Question: Will this user-for-32-years-of-the-Internet-since-the-original-ARPAnet-days-and-early-settler-of-the-broadband-wireless-landscape really be the last person in the UK to get domestic broadband? Here’s a followup to the 12-step saga I began earlier.
[SUMMARY: on-again-off-again-on-again ‘possible’, ‘maybe’, ‘absolutely no way’, ‘I completely give up’ and finally ‘wait a minute, I have an idea…’]
Step 13 [of 28 so far]. 5th July 2004, 11:49AM – I email the contents of the open letter/blog posted earlier.
Step 14. 5th July 2004, 12:11PM – within 22 minutes of my just-sent email, the Managing Director of NDO personally intervenes with a very nice email, expressing sympathy and support for the situation, and puts his Call Centre Manager into the loop to ‘take ownership to ensure a resolution is achieved’. I’m impressed (really… remember, I’m trying to tell the straight story here, without being cynical or snyde… this and the next few steps are actually pretty cool!).
15. 5th July 2004, 12:15PM – Within just 4 further minutes (!!!) of my hearing from the NDO Managing Director (above), the NDO Call Centre Manager indeed emails and phones me to reassure me that he is personally ‘on the case’, and has spoken to BT, and that “some one has gone out to the local exchange to see if there is a problem there and if so then they will resolve and inform us when done. If every thing works out fine then they will contact us for engineer visit and we will book this and inform you as to the time and date of the visit, I will do my best to get this resolved as soon as I can”
16. 5th July 2004, 13:36 – I email back with a “Many thanks” and proposed times for a BT engineer callout (to avoid wasted time as on the 5th of July itself).
17. 5th July 2004, 17:38 – NDO responds with confirmation that BT had (erroneously) ‘cleared the fault log’ but that NDO have re-sent the fault report and requested that a BT engineer come out to replace the BT socket with a new plate, since the modem is not synchronizing.
18. 5th July 2004, 17:47 – I respond with more genuine thanks and request clarification about exactly what I need to do.
19. 6th July 2004, 11:18 – NDO says they have been chasing my case ‘up the chain’ in BT and have been told that ‘in the next 3-4 hours’ NDO would receive a full update, meanwhile NDO predicts they will be told “we need to get an engineer out to your premises, which is what should have been done days ago”
20. 6th July 12:15 I email more thanks and my mobile phone number to facilitate further contact/interactions
21. 6th July 16:35 NDO emails me “We have success at last, just spoke to one of the technical guys at BT, who has now passed this to faults with a note to say, ‘book engineer visit’. I have just spoken to the faults team and booked BT engineer to come out tomorrow (7th July 2004) between 3.30 and 6pm.”
22. 7th July 18:46 – BT engineer visits house!! But to no avail, as I email to NDO:
“Well, the guy did indeed come out to the house, testing everything (NO LUCK), went back to the exchange to double-check things, and came back with final verdict “we are too far from the exchange” (>8 km). Aargh. What next? I have a ‘fallback’ position, which is that I have an entirely *SEPARATE* (and NEWER) ISDN line, on xxxx xxxxxx, and would happily scrap that if I could be upgraded to ADSL, but of course ISDN lines are ineligible for this trial. Bah.
Over to you… help!!!”
23. 08 July 2004 10:57 – NDO emails with genuine sorrow that it hasn’t worked, pointing out that all my money will be refunded, and I can post back the ADSL modem and the cost for that will be refunded as well (except for “We will not be able to refund you for delivery”). Regarding my fallback theory, they say
“It’s up to you if you wish to go down this costly route, which doesn’t guarantee you will have ADSL, you could end up with same problem as the current line. Option you may wish to look at is, getting your ISDN converted to analogue line, which will cost £50 + Vat on your BT phone bill, then once converted you will need to let us know, we will place another order and if order is successful BT will convert your line over to ADSL and we hope that should work, if it doesn’t then you would need to get ISDN back on the line and again this would cost. We are not recommending this to you, it’s your decision.”
[I don’t like the fact that BT in effect requires me to go down various experimental routes and make tough judgement calls and key tradeoff decisions, when I don’t have all the facts at my fingertips!!!]
24. 08 July 2004 17:09 I finally play my ‘last resort’/trump card, which I was hoping not to have to do (I really wanted to pursue this as a plain vanilla customer, not as someone ‘with connections’). Through my connections, I email someone I’ve met pretty high up the chain in the BT Broadband world, saying
“… I don’t understand why the BT engineer couldn’t have said ‘gee, this is tough: maybe we can install aNEW phone line that follows a shorter route, or re-purpose your OTHER (ISDN) line” or “let’s think about this’ instead of ‘No way. Bye.’ [following N months, or is that years, of waiting for this] … Kind of makes you wonder. Still no “ownership”, no “engagement”, no “responsibility” for the issues. … Since my neighbours have it, it MUST be possible technically for me to have it too! OK, so I’ll pay for a new line to be installed– big deal, what do I care? ; it’s not the cost, it’s the degrees of uncertainty and negotiation that I no longer have the patience for. Even NDO implies (nay, says directly) that I have to take all the risk, install a new line that may still not work, etc.”
25. My BT contact is about to go away for a while but kindly agrees to have this investigated upon return, meanwhile reminding me of a passage from BB4MK queries to BT, in particular:
“ISDN conversions during the trial are a complex matter. Firstly, BT does not supply all of the ISDNs and therefore we cannot insist that other suppliers carry out conversion work for free. Secondly, we can’t guarantee that ISDN customers will be able to keep their numbers in the event that broadband service can’t be provided and they return to ISDN. This is particularly disruptive for businesses.”
[once again, I’m a little taken aback by us customers having to make tricky judgement calls based on info we haven’t got!!]
26. 20th July 2004 17:55 – my BT contact gets back to me precisely as promised, informing me that the lines have been tested, but regrettably the decibel loss on my ISDN line is 77dB, and my normal/analog line the loss is 77.1dB, both beyond the acceptable threshold for ADSL in the current trial, but that customers in my shoes will be the subject of a specific policy/course of action to be decided in late September, and that my case will remain well in focus on the radar screen. Also, my BT contact points out “Therefore it would not be sensible to cancel your ISDN and put this line forward for the trial.”
27. 21st July 2004 – Realising that I’d better KEEP my ISDN line which, alas, has been in danger of expiring because the bill is overdue (but until now I didn’t care because I thought I’d just let it die and switch over to ADSL on my other main phone line!), I finally accept TOTAL DEFEAT, and phone up the BT bill payment line, suggesting that I’d now agree to pay my quarterly ISDN/2e (busineess tariff) by direct debit. But why do I have a business tariff? I can’t even remember. So I ask them if I could switch to a residential tariff.
BT Business can’t deal with residential tariffs, so they hand me over to a residential tariff person (who regrettably has much less technical expertise). They make a few enquiries and tell me that my line is incapable of supporting ‘Home Highway’ (residential tariff): too far away from the exchange. So they pass me back to the Business Tariff people. I’m finally (again) talking to the Business Tariff people about getting my bill paid by direct debit, and I sigh into the phone what a shame it is that my neighbours can get ADSL but I can’t.
BT ISDN Business Tariff guy: “Wait a minute, your NEIGHBOURS can get ADSL but you can’t”
ME: “yes… that’s the old problem here in Loughton, with ancient lines that are laid differently depending on when your house was built”
BT guy: “hang on… let me talk to one of my mates to see if there’s anything we can do about this…”
[several minutes later…]
BT guy: “ok, we can get your ISDN line upgraded to ADSL”
ME: “Excuse me?”
BT guy: “we can get your ISDN line upgraded to ADSL”
ME: “but I’ve just been through a long saga about this, and have been told it can’t be done, because at 77db I’m over the ADSL threshold.”
BT guy: “well, I’m not sure how it works for residential lines, but on a business tariff we can just boost your signal at the local exchange, and bring it to acceptable limits”
ME [silently incredulous – ‘boost my signal’… duh… so how come no one has said that before]: “OK, sign me up”
[step 27 is shortened quite a bit – in fact I was on the phone for 54 minutes in between various departments, sitting on hold, etc… this ‘BT guy’ is my new hero… he was determined to get to the bottom of things and leave me as a happy customer, and this without any ‘string-pulling’, just a cold call from me as a plain vanilla customer, albeit one on a business tariff]
28. Diary constraints prevent me from synchronize with a BT engineer until 16th August, but I don’t mind after all this time, a few more weeks is fine with me… and I’m definitely keen to see how it goes. Stay tuned…